Most Common Trait Successful Artists Share – Sheila Houlahan


Film Courage: Being your own artist instead of an imitation of what your teachers might have instilled in you, can we talk about that? 

Sheila Houlahan, Actor, Singer, Producer and Writer: Oh yeah we can! I think that is the final launch to really being able to allow yourself to achieve your dreams. At some point you can’t be a student anymore. You have to just blindly charge at it the way you would want to. I actually find that to be a big trap for folks in our industry, people who get too comfortable with the student mentality. At least on the after side of things, people who stay with the same studio for 15 years and I’m like I think you learned what they have to teach, but I get it. It’s hard when you find a community but at some point you need to strike out and do it your way because at the end of the day when you think of artists that have made an impact across fields, whether it be the visual arts or film or music or what have you, they always end up leaving the herd and doing it their way. When you think of Harrison Ford or Tom Hanks, they’re just them. I know if I’m going to see something with Harrison Ford in it I know what’s coming. He’s going to be Harrison Ford. He’s never put himself ever in a position where he’s not, so when I teach my students or when I mentor folks, always from day one it’s about What do you want to do? What speaks to you? How about you bring the material in that you think is interesting and exciting, let’s go from there. Hey, why don’t we build a project off of that material? Oh, is this your calling? That’s fun. I want to find what lights them up and go from there and that’s how I also steer my own career. If I can’t make a choice, whether it be something as in front or behind the camera, I can survey my mentors, I can talk to teachers, I can coach all day long. At the end of the day I have to make a decision and that decision is going to be made off of my own gut instincts. I might be looking for reinforcement from other people but at some point you have to have the courage to fail forward. I also just believe that if you’re making a decision from a place that isn’t ego-driven and that is just your own artistic self it’s going to be really hard to fail. But if you do fail it’s going to actually be a learning experience where you’re going to be able to be more honed into what you need to do better. Next time you have to be willing to make that leap at the end of the day.

Film Courage: How do we learn from a teacher without making them a guru and then if we leave the nest, then we can bring a…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

Photo by Jeffrey Mosier


Sheila Houlahan is a Webby Award Winning Indian-American actor, singer, producer, writer and advocate. Sheila played the supporting role “Paige Callahan” opposite Denzel Washington in the Warner Bros. feature “The Little Things”, which was written and directed by John Lee Hancock. She also has a role in the Michael Bay thriller “Ambulance”.  In 2021, Sheila was the executive producer for a feature film adaptation of Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer-winning play “Night, Mother” in partnership with; this film was a “hybrid” film, mixing pre-recorded segments with live performance that was recorded and edited in front of a live audience. Over 8000 people watched “Night, Mother” live, and since then, the film has received critical acclaim and has been screened at 68 festivals in over 24 countries. “Night, Mother” has over 64K views on it’s flagship channel and has been praised for its’ fresh, innovative approach to filmmaking winning over 60 awards including the Webby Award for Virtual and Remote Entertainment & Media.  Sheila is a Celebrity Champion for Project HEAL, a nonprofit organization that helps people suffering from eating disorders source affordable treatment options and pay for treatment. She is also an ambassador for Ability Magazine’s platform AbilityE, a casting portal that seeks to increase inclusion and representation of differently-abled talent and creatives on both sides of the table in Hollywood.

Sheila in Piano Lessons








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